Flashback: 12 of the best hip-hop and rap groups/artists of the ’80s

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I’m a little bias in this opinion, but growing up in the ’80s was the best time ever. So much happened in the ’80s in terms of culture, pop culture, and entertainment. It was in the ’80s where hip-hop and rap started to find their footing and breaking into the mainstream.

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

This era birthed a plethora of talented rap groups that laid the foundation for the genre’s global domination. These groups not only paved the way for future generations of rap artists but also defined the culture, style, and sound of hip-hop during its formative years. In this article, we’ll explore twelve of the best rap groups from the ’80s that left an indelible mark on the world of music and continue to inspire artists until now.

12 Notable Hip-Hop and Rap Groups From the ’80s

Flashback: 12 of the best hip-hop and rap groups/artists of the '80s hip hop news

This list is in no particular order, as all the hip-hop and rap artists here all heavily contributed to the larger culture at hand.

  • Run-D.M.C.: Easily one of the most iconic rap groups of the 80s, Run-D.M.C. brought rap into the mainstream with their groundbreaking hits like “It’s Tricky” and “Walk This Way.” Their fusion of rock and rap, along with their distinctive fashion sense, helped shape the genre’s future.
  • Public Enemy: Known for their socially conscious and politically charged lyrics, Public Enemy burst onto the scene with anthems like “Fight the Power.” Their bold activism and innovative production techniques made them a force to be reckoned with.
  • N.W.A.: Hailing from Compton, California, N.W.A. introduced gangsta rap to the world with hits like “Straight Outta Compton.” Their gritty storytelling sheds light on the realities of life in the inner city.
  • Beastie Boys: Blurring the lines between rap and rock, the Beastie Boys achieved massive success with their album “Licensed to Ill.” Their irreverent style and energetic performances made them a cultural phenomenon.
  • De La Soul: Bringing a fresh, alternative approach to hip-hop, De La Soul’s debut album “3 Feet High and Rising” showcased their eclectic sampling and quirky lyrics, setting them apart from their peers.
  • A Tribe Called Quest: Fusing jazz and hip-hop, A Tribe Called Quest created a unique sound that resonated with a wide audience. Hits like “Can I Kick It?” and “Scenario” solidified their status as pioneers of alternative rap.
  • LL Cool J: This two-time Grammy winning artist was one of the engines that drove hip-hop and rap during the ’80s.
  • Whodini: Whodini’s blend of electro-funk and rap, exemplified by tracks like “Freaks Come Out at Night,” helped shape the early sound of hip-hop and influenced future generations.
  • Boogie Down Productions: Led by KRS-One, Boogie Down Productions was known for their socially conscious lyrics and thought-provoking themes. Their album “Criminal Minded” is considered a classic of the era.
  • EPMD (Erick and Parrish Making Dollars): EPMD’s smooth, laid-back style and innovative production techniques made them stand out in the 80s rap scene. Their albums “Strictly Business” and “Unfinished Business” are revered by fans.
  • Salt-N-Pepa: This all-female rap group challenged stereotypes and broke barriers with their empowering lyrics and energetic performances. Hits like “Push It” and “Shoop” are still staples of pop culture today.
  • Jungle Brothers: Often associated with the Native Tongues collective, the Jungle Brothers brought a positive and conscious vibe to their music. Their debut album “Straight Out of the Jungle” showcased their innovative approach to sampling and production.

This list could go on for a long time, there are so many others that could be here, such as:

  • Kool Moe Dee
  • Ice Cube
  • Slick Rick
  • Biz Markie
  • Queen Latifah
  • KRS One
  • Ice-T
  • Eazy-E

I am positive I missed many fantastic groups and artists, this genre isn’t exactly my expertise. My picks here are what I remember listening to when I was growing up in the ’80s. What are some of your favorite hip-hop and rap groups/artists from the ’80s? Let us know who we missed by sharing this article on social media and naming names!


The 1980s were a golden era for rap music, and these twelve rap groups played a pivotal role in shaping the genre’s identity. From political activism to innovative production techniques, these groups pushed the boundaries of what rap could be, leaving an enduring legacy that continues to inspire artists and audiences alike. As we reflect on the past, it’s clear that the influence of these groups on modern hip-hop is immeasurable, and their contributions to music history will forever be celebrated.

What do you think of these hip-hop and rap groups? Please share your thoughts on any of the social media pages listed below. You can also comment on our MeWe page by joining the MeWe social network. Be sure to subscribe to our RUMBLE channel as well!

Portions of this article were written using AI, feature image generated using AI.

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